Category: Gen, Drama, Humor, Angst
Characters: (Past) Dean, John, Bobby; (Present) Dean, Sam, Bobby, Castiel
Spoilers: Through I Believe the Children Are Our Future
Summary: When Dean suffers a relapse of a debilitating supernatural illness he once had several years earlier, Bobby must bury his feelings of helplessness and inadequacy if he's to help Sam find a way to save Dean without reliving the mistakes of the past.
Word Count: 17,400
Disclaimer: See previous posts.
[Chapter 1] [Chapter 2] [Chapter 3] [Chapter 4] [Chapter 5]
Bobby drove his van down one of the back roads as he followed the Impala towards a large sports ground. Every year the Sioux Falls area had held the Jammin' and Rammin' Car Show over on Benny's Field. It just so happened it was that time of year.
"I don't understand," Castiel said, appearing beside Bobby and nearly giving him a heart attack. "How does a show about cars help Dean?"
"Beats me." When Bobby realized Castiel was still waiting for an answer, he muttered under his breath and rolled his eyes. "Sam's trying to break through to Dean by making new happy memories."
"For the record, I don't think it'll work, but at this point, gotta try something. Better than bringing up the bad ones."
"That's what you didn't want to tell Sam."
Bobby didn't feel like answering. Nothing more needed to be said. Sam's game plan was their last ditch effort. If it didn't work, well Dean wouldn't last long enough for them to fail again anyway.
"I think we're here," Castiel said.
Bobby pulled into the parking lot. There weren't many spaces left, but luckily he found a batch of empty ones on the far side of the lot. He pulled in next to Sam, not all that surprised that he'd already hopped out of the car and was working on pulling Dean out of the passenger side.
Dean was beyond sluggish.
Sam wasn't going to wait, but Bobby had gotten used to getting in and out of the van on his own.
"I'll meet you inside," Bobby called from his open window.
Sam gave him a curt nod and practically dragged Dean toward the field.
Bobby spent the next few minutes hauling his dead wood for legs out of the driver's seat and using the van's controls to get himself comfy in the wheelchair death trap. When he was just about finished, he jerked, shocked to find Castiel leaning over to help him leave the van.
"Thanks," he muttered. He needed to change the subject fast. "You goin' in?"
"I don't have any desire to watch people marvel at their own inept attempts at creation. I'll remain here."
Bobby wheeled as fast as he could to the ticket booth set up at the edge of the field. After he bought a ticket and did a quick survey of the grounds, he noticed Sam and Dean just a few feet away. They had stopped beside a cherry-red Camaro; Sam was explaining what little he could, while juggling a corn dog and some cotton candy. All the while he had Dean secured with his free arm.
When Bobby settled by their side, Sam let out a sigh of relief and handed Bobby the food.
"I stopped by and grabbed Dean something to eat in case he panicked," Sam explained.
"Food cures all." Corn dog didn't smell half bad, Bobby thought, though if Dean ever came out of this, he was going to be one sick puppy when the increased appetite wore off.
The corn dogs might have looked good, but Dean sure didn't. His face had a pasty grayish color, his eyes glassy and empty, and he had this dullness that weighed him down. Forget hours. Bobby was worried he wouldn't last thirty minutes.
"How's he doing?" Bobby knew he didn't have to ask.
Sam forced the worst smile Bobby had ever seen. "Okay. We already looked at a Dodge Charger and some Chevelles. Dean seemed to like them."
"Not as good as mine?"
Sam chuckled. "Never."
At least Bobby had gotten a laugh out of him.
They spent the next ten minutes cycling through the various muscle cars on display at a clip pace. He had a sinking feeling all the stimuli was just bringing Dean down faster, but Sam's determination couldn't be broken. Ignoring a hankering to go check out some of the trucks and trailers, he followed Sam and Dean in case something happened, or God forbid, Dean breathed his last. If something sparked in Dean, he didn't want to miss it. Likewise, if Dean managed some kind of fit, he wanted to be around to help stop him, if possible.
Dean didn't look as if he would run or snap out of his haze. His steps were slower, and his reactions so sluggish that Bobby wasn't even sure he knew where he was. Even now, he was just standing there, staring at his reflection in the window of a souped-up GTX. While he did stop for a second to rub his fingers over the amulet's surface, Bobby didn't see any glimmer of understanding in his eyes.
Whatever Sam had hoped to accomplish here just wasn't going to work.
"No," Sam said, ignoring Bobby. "No. It's not going to happen."
He grabbed Dean by the hand, dragged him away from the GTX, and brought him to another car, and another, and another. With each stop, Dean looked worse for wear. Bobby quickly followed.
They finally stopped in front of a sleek, black '65 Mustang.
Sam frowned. "I've seen this before."
Bobby slowed to a stop. "This car?"
"Not this car in particular, but this model. I remember my dad having a picture." He pressed his lips together. "I think Dean tried to burn it."
Bobby chuckled despite himself. Yeah, he could see Dean doing that.
He glanced back to the car. The owner had done a bang-up job keeping her prime. Bobby wondered if the owner had stuck to the classics and rebuilt her to mimic the originals back in the day, or if she was just a reconstructed nightmare on the inside. He peered under the open hood for a look.
"It was black, too," Sam said. "Do you remember that, Dean?"
Dean just stared at the car.
"I think I recall John talking about it once."
Bobby nodded. "He had a sweet spot for the '65 Mustangs. He mentioned once that he was thinking of selling the Impala, all the memories of your mom tangled up in it, but he didn't."
Sam winced, but not because of what Bobby told him. Dean had tightened his grip, his face looking slightly panicked and angry. While Bobby was thankful Dean still had enough brain cells to actually have reactions, he was uneasy that he seemed to be regressing. They couldn't risk Dean having a full-out panic attack in the middle of Benny's Field. If he tried to run, he'd be out of steam in seconds, and most likely they'd be taking him back home in a body bag.
In an attempt to try to calm him, Sam leaned over and whispered something unintelligible into Dean's ear. Whatever Sam said seemed to cool him off, but only slightly. Despite the fatigue, Dean was looking twitchy.
"It would have been weird if we didn't have the Impala," Sam said, resorting back to conversation to try to ease Dean. Bobby saw the memories swelling in his eyes. "Dean taught me how to drive in it." Sam stopped, as if waiting for Bobby to say something, or maybe Dean.
"He wasn't too happy about it, but he told me if I were going to learn how to drive, I needed to learn how to do it right. I don't know where Dad was. Some job. We were in Wyoming and it was summertime." Sam let out a soft chuckle. "He whined like a backseat driver the whole time, but still managed to teach me how to handle the Impala."
Bobby bit his tongue and let Sam talk. He knew that Sam needed to let these feelings out. He rarely let himself do so. And if this were the end, Sam needed to let go.
"I was sixteen and just hit a growth spurt. He couldn't tease me about not reaching the pedals, but he found a way to do it anyway. I passed the test, even if the instructor said I drove a little too fast. Dean never let me drive it after, not until later." His face grew serious and he turned to Bobby, his eyes appearing to mist over. "Trading in the car would have been like trading in Dean, trading us." There was a long pause. "Did he ever say why he didn't?"
"Mom would've never wanted him to get rid of the car."
Bobby jerked and Sam whipped his head at the sound of Dean's broken voice. His eyes were still cloudy, and half his face slack, but he looked as if he were waking from a deep sleep. Dean was watching them--he looked completely out of it--but watching them nonetheless.
"Besides," Dean said. "Show Mustangs are for lily-white assed pansies." He clicked his mouth and whistled, before forcing a weak smile. "My baby? She's an everyman's car."
Sam's face lit up brighter than Bobby'd seen it in a long time. Hell, Bobby knew he must look like a goofball himself, smiling something fierce.
Dean frowned and tried to step back, obviously a little more than disturbed at the way they were looking at him. He only stopped when he realized he couldn't move any more.
"Dude…" Dean looked at his hand secured firmly in Sam's.
Sam cleared his throat and let go.
"Good to have ya back," Bobby said.
The frown didn't ease. "Back? Did I go somewhere?" He looked around, the confusion growing. "Car show?"
"You don't remember?" Sam asked.
Dean wouldn't. None of the victims ever would.
He shook his head. "And why the hell do I smell like fruit salad?" He reached into his pocket and withdrew a car freshener, the ends frayed with teeth marks.
People were starting to stare, and if Bobby remembered how this worked, then they needed to get Dean someplace where he could rest and regain himself. "We should go," he told Sam.
Sam nodded. He pressed his hand against Dean's back and guided him toward the exit. Dean didn't protest, but there wasn't much he could argue. He just stumbled toward the end of the field, looking like a lost soul.
But he was alive. He was Dean. And hopefully, they'd all managed to pull through in one piece.
He couldn't say the same for the last time.
The victims don't remember a damn thing. That was the way it went. So when Dean stumbled out of the smoke-filled room, blood-shot and exhausted, Bobby didn't expect him to understand, or to know what John had done.
But when Bobby looked into Dean's eyes, he saw something that shook him. Dean might not remember what happened, and that was a blessing for sure, but there was a ghost haunting his eyes, something odd and wrong and broken, and it wasn't ever going away.
Bobby sent a murderous glare to John.
"Go get cleaned up," John told the bewildered boy.
"Go on and clean up," John said again, his voice firm.
Dean nodded. He touched the two-week growth on his face and took a whiff under his arm, but didn't ask any questions. Instead, he shuffled toward the bathroom, favoring his left side and occasionally looking over his shoulder to John or Bobby looking for help, for understanding. When he received none, he staggered into the bathroom and shut the door.
"You owe that boy an explanation," Bobby said.
"I'll tell him he was attacked by a bori. Don't worry about it." John wiped his hands on a rag before he started to pack up his arsenal.
"That ain't what I mean."
John stopped and glared at Bobby. "You have a problem with me?"
"I sure do. You just put that boy through Hell. You just made him relieve his mother's death. Oh, I know you did," Bobby said, cutting John off before he could lie his way out of it. "And you threw the Sam leaving fiasco into his face too, didn't you?"
John held his hard gaze for a moment longer. "I did what I had to do."
"No, you didn't. You did what was easy. You took out your grief on him, instead of dealing with it yourself."
"Stay out of my business."
"No. It ain't happening, John. You bring your damaged, yellow ass into my home, and you expect me to do nothing when you tear your own kids down to be as screwed up as yourself?"
John slammed the duffle bag onto the table and shoved himself in Bobby's face. "Mary is dead. Do you think I wanted to do this to Dean? Do you think I wanted to raise my boys this way?" He stopped, his heavy hot breath on Bobby's face. "There's something dark hanging over my family and I won't let it take my boys. I won't."
"This ain't the way. It's gonna blow up in your face one day. You already lost one kid. You wanna lose the other?"
With a swift zip, John closed the duffle bag and flung it over his shoulder. He didn't even have the decency to answer. "Hurry up, Dean! We're going!" With that, he marched to the door and headed to his truck.
Bobby wasn't letting him off that easy. He nabbed his shotgun and stormed after John. Rumsfeld started barking at the tension, or at John, but Bobby blocked out the noise to face the stubborn man who still hadn't managed to face his own demons.
"So you're gonna be a coward and just walk?"
John threw the bag into his truck and turned to Bobby, his eyes ablaze. "It'd be best for you to stop. Now."
"My house. My rules."
"Then, I'll be going and you can keep your rules to yourself." He opened the truck door.
Bobby was going to get through to John if it was the last thing he did. He grabbed John by the shoulder and shoved him back. "Maybe Sam had the right idea. Maybe you're poison."
John yanked his sleeve out of Bobby's hand. "Don't you mention Sam."
"Kills ya, don't it? That one of your boys can think for himself. You're scared Dean will do it, too. Leave you all alone with your misery."
"Bobby, I don't wanna do it, but I'll hit you."
"You try," Bobby muttered. He raised his gun.
John grabbed Bobby by the collar and slammed him against the side of the truck. He wound his arm back and readied for the punch, despite Bobby trying to wave him off with threats of his shotgun. He only stopped short when his face fell slack.
Bobby seized the moment. "Call up Sam. Be good to Dean. Don't do this."
He was staring at something just beyond Bobby's shoulder.
"Do what?" Dean asked.
Bobby turned his head, and let out a disappointed sigh. Dean was watching them, scrubbing the scruff behind Rumsfeld's ear with his injured but working arm. He still looked lost, but that confusion was quickly turning into suspicion and anxiety. Dean couldn't take it when people he cared about argued. He never could.
Bobby had no doubt if he was a hundred percent, he'd have come running to separate them, to shove himself in the middle somehow. This time he didn't. He just watched, watched with that pained, deep-cutting pain that made Bobby feel the guilt smack him like a ton of bricks.
John eased his grip on Bobby, though the anger never left his eyes.
"Dean, let's go."
"What's going on?"
"Nothing. Just pack your stuff and go."
Dean examined his father's face, searching for answers. Bobby knew he wouldn't get them. And Dean wouldn't ask for them. He'd just be the good little soldier, hoping that whatever he did would win his daddy's affection forevermore.
Bobby was plain sick of it.
As expected, Dean reached down to grab his bag and headed toward the Impala. He kept bouncing his attention between John, Bobby, and Bobby's gun. Finally, he let out a sigh and threw his stuff into the trunk.
Bobby didn't want him to go. In truth, he didn't want to end things with John this way either.
He swallowed down the lump growing in his throat and raised his gun at John.
John paused outside the driver's door to his Sierra. "Gonna shoot me, Bobby."
"Bobby!" Dean shouted.
"I don't ever want to see your hide on my property again, here me? I ain't afraid to pump you full of buckshot from here to kingdom come."
John scoffed. "You don't mean that."
Bobby cocked the shotgun.
That was all John needed to know. He climbed into his truck and headed off the property. Dean lingered for a moment longer, looking both hurt and betrayed by Bobby's words, but also a little in awe. Like his father, he left without another word. Bobby watched him climb into the driver's side of the Impala and take off after John.
Once again, Bobby was alone.